On the Road

The GX 460: opulent inside, genuine off-roader outside

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THE LEXUS GX 460 is a truck-based luxury SUV with genuine off-road capability.

The bestselling Lexus model for many years now has been the RX 350 crossover, but when it comes to off-road capability combined with luxury, the GX 460 beats it hands down.

That’s because the Lexus RX is a compact car-based crossover while the Lexus GX 460 is a tough, body-on-frame, midsize SUV built on the platform of the Toyota 4Runner, a proven off-roader.  The GX is a powerful 7-seater 4×4 vehicle with low-range gearing, a locking center differential and electronic controls that make it safe and easy for the driver to tackle all kinds of terrain in all kinds of weather.  In several aspects, the GX 460 resembles its cousin, the larger, pricier Toyota Land Cruiser.  Lexus, Toyota’s premium car division, introduced the GX 460 in 2010 and has installed few minor revisions since then.

INSIDE, intuitive controls with soft leather, polished wood trim and deep carpeting

Weighing 5,300 pounds, the 2013 GX packs enough grunt to tow up to 6,500 pounds. Its 4.6-liter, V8, 4-cam, 32-valve Dual VVT-i, direct injection engine, mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission, delivers 301 hp/5,500 rpm and 446 Nm/3,500 rpm max torque.  The full-time 4WD drivetrain with Torsen center differential lock, Vehicle Stability Control, Active Traction Control plus electronically controlled air suspension with Adaptive Vehicle Suspension System and Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System are not usually found in truck-based SUVs, but they come standard in the GX.  These give the GX genuine, hardcore off-road capability.

THE TORQUEY 4.6-liter V8 engine with Dual VVT-i packs 301 hp.

V8 ROAR. Lexus claims that the GX can hit 100 kph from zero in 7.8 seconds, which is respectable given its size and weight. However, the GX averages 7 km per liter in combined highway and city driving, with premium (91 octane) gasoline as the recommended fuel.

On the other hand, there is nothing that sounds as pleasing as the roar of a strong V8 engine when you start it—via a Start/Stop pushbutton in the GX.  On the Skyway, the GX was quiet and smooth, cruising effortlessly with 6 close-set ratios available, but when I drove faster than 120 kph, an alarm buzzed and a red, indecipherable warning icon appeared on the gauge panel.  Apparently, the test unit has an activated speed governor, which was just as well because a 100 kph speed limit is sometimes strictly enforced on the Skyway.

In stop-and-go city traffic, the GX can feel somewhat truck-like due to its solid truck underpinnings, but the ride remains comfortable, swallowing potholes and speed humps with ease.  Given its heft, the GX shows some body lean when negotiating corners at speed despite its stout antisway bars.  The light, long-ratio steering and soft brake pedal remind you that the GX is truly a traditional truck-based SUV.

THE GX’S rear height can be adjusted upwards for added off-road clearance.

TRUCK ROOTS. The GX’s size, boxy structure, four-slat front grille, tall, upright stance and  high, imposing beltline manifest its solid truck roots, but inside is refined Lexus opulence with soft leather, glossy wood trim, silvery chrome accents and thick carpeting.  The spacious 10-way power adjustable front seats can be cooled or heated as the need arises.  These seats have power lumbar support and are positioned to give a commanding view of the road. Headroom and legroom are spacious in front with storage bins and pockets galore.

The 4-spoke, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel automatically tilts away and the driver’s seat moves back to facilitate egress when the power button is pushed to stop the engine.   The second row seat splits 40/20/40 and has an audio, aircon control panel, a center armrest/cupholder and overhead reading lamps.  The 60/40 third row seat lacks legroom but folds flat at the push of a button to make the GX a 5-seater with increased cargo space.  The rear cargo door, hinged on the passenger side, swings open sideways which can be cumbersome. A flip-up cargo door window allows the convenient stowing of smaller and lighter packages. A 9-speaker 6-disc CD changer with Bluetooth, USB and AUX completes the interior package.

THE ROOMY, second row seat splits 40/20/40 and has its own aircon and audio controls.

Aside from the electronic stability and traction control systems, the GX has eight airbags, ABS, brake assist, backup camera and rain-sensing wipers as standard safety equipment. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to test the GX’s off-road prowess on rock-strewn, muddy, gravelly, dusty, sandy, flooded, slippery, wet dirt terrain, rugged surfaces, steep uphill and/or downhill trails under heavy rainfall.  Lexus claims that the torque-sensing center differential allows the GX to continuously adjust power distribution from wheel to wheel as traction permits.  Traction is further enhanced with the Active Traction Control System which quickly controls wheel slip on wet grass or slippery pavement.

LEVEL. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which is also found in the Land Cruiser, works automatically without driver intervention in low-range gearing to keep the GX level whenever a wheel is lifted off the ground.  This helps the driver to avoid getting stuck while crossing highly irregular terrain.  The Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) System and rear adjustable height control allow the driver to select a stiffer or softer suspension tuning to suit various situations.   AVS can adjust the rear height by more than an inch for added off-road clearance and easier cargo loading.

UNUSUAL for a SUV, the cargo door swings open sideways. Photos by Aida Sevilla-Mendoza

Summing up, the Lexus GX 460 is a versatile  premium V8 SUV that can double as an elegant executive/family car in urban settings and as a tough off-road performer on adventurous out-of-town weekends.  For P5.328 million you can have it all.

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